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Hamline University student suspended after pro-gun rights email
I wrote about this case today here:
What's odd are the strange justifications the university gave. I
described my interaction with Hamline officials in my article.
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: FIRE News: Hamline University Student Suspended After
Advocating Concealed Carry for Students
From: Robert Shibley
Dear Mr. McCullagh:
Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota, has suspended a student after
he sent an e-mail suggesting that the Virginia Tech massacre might have
been stopped if students had been allowed to carry concealed weapons on
campus. Student Troy Scheffler is now required to undergo a mandatory
"mental health evaluation" before being allowed to return to school.
Scheffler, who was suspended without due process just two days after
sending the e-mail, has turned to FIRE for help.
FIRE's full press release on this case appears below, but if your e-mail
client does not support HTML, you can view a link-rich version at
I would be happy to answer any questions you may have. You can reach me
by replying to this e-mail or by calling the number below.
Robert Shibley, Vice President
Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE)
601 Walnut Street, Suite 510
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Phone: 215-717-3473; Fax: 215-717-3440
Hamline University Student Suspended After Advocating Concealed Carry
for Students; School Orders Psychological Evaluation
ST. PAUL, Minn., October 10, 2007-Hamline University has suspended a
student after he sent an e-mail suggesting that the Virginia Tech
massacre might have been stopped if students had been allowed to carry
concealed weapons on campus. Student Troy Scheffler is now required to
undergo a mandatory "mental health evaluation" before being allowed to
return to school. Scheffler, who was suspended without due process just
two days after sending the e-mail, has turned to the Foundation for
Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help.
"Hamline's punishment of Troy Scheffler is severe, unfair, and
apparently unwarranted," FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said. "Peacefully
advocating for students' ability to carry a concealed weapon as a
response to the Virginia Tech shootings may be controversial, but it
simply does not justify ordering a mandatory psychological evaluation."
On April 17, 2007, Hamline's Vice President of Student Affairs, David
Stern, sent an e-mail to the campus community offering extra counseling
for Hamline students in the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings. Later
that day, Scheffler responded directly to Stern, arguing that Virginia
Tech's ban on concealed weapons was part of the problem and advocating
that Hamline eliminate its similar policies. Scheffler also wrote that
the university's diversity programs may have angered some in the student
body, himself included.
On April 19, 2007, Hamline University President Linda Hanson e-mailed
the campus community again to address the tragedy at Virginia Tech.
Scheffler responded directly to Hanson and again criticized the
university's concealed weapons ban, academic standards, financial
policies, and the university's efforts to promote diversity.
Hanson replied to Scheffler on Friday, April 20, offering him a chance
to meet with university personnel to discuss his views the following
week. Yet on Monday, April 23, before Scheffler was even able to respond
to Hanson's invitation, he received a hand-delivered letter from Dean of
Students Alan Sickbert notifying him that his e-mails to Stern and
Hanson were "deemed to be threatening and thus an alleged violation of
the Hamline University Judicial Code."
Sickbert's letter also informed Scheffler that he was being placed on
immediate "interim suspension" that could not be lifted unless he agreed
to a "mental health evaluation" by a licensed mental health professional.
FIRE wrote to President Hanson on May 29, 2007, vehemently opposing the
sanctions against Scheffler, since neither of Scheffler's e-mails even
came close to meeting the legal definition of a "threat." FIRE also
pointed out that Hamline maintains a "Freedom of Expression and Inquiry"
policy that encourages the public expression of opinions and the freedom
to examine and discuss all questions of interest. FIRE wrote that "it is
difficult to reconcile these admirable commitments to freedom of
expression with Hamline's hasty actions against Scheffler."
FIRE also informed Hamline administrators that subjecting Scheffler to a
mandatory psychological evaluation poses a grave threat to liberty at
Hamline. FIRE wrote, "A psychological evaluation, to be overseen by a
Hamline administrator, is one of the most invasive and disturbing
intrusions upon Scheffler's individual right to private conscience
imaginable. Because Scheffler has shown no proclivity toward violence
and has made no threatening comments, this psychological evaluation
seeks to assess his political opinions.."
Hanson responded to FIRE on June 11, 2007, claiming that there were
several reasons for Scheffler's suspension, including the e-mails, his
failure to meet with administrators when invited, and "critical input
from various members of the Hamline community." FIRE addressed each of
those claims in another letter to Hanson on September 17, 2007. Not only
did FIRE reiterate that Scheffler's e-mails were not threats, but it
also pointed out that Scheffler was given less than one full business
day before his suspension to respond to the invitation from school
officials to discuss his views. FIRE also noted that the alleged
information from "various members of the Hamline community," which
supposedly played a role in determining Scheffler's sanctions, had not
even been revealed to Scheffler himself, denying him the right to defend
himself or present his side of the story. In a September 28, 2007,
response, Hamline's attorneys refused to address FIRE's concerns that
Scheffler has bee!
n denied his due process rights.
"How can Scheffler hope to defend himself when Hamline refuses even to
tell him what he is accused of doing?" FIRE Vice President Robert
Shibley asked. "Hamline's policies promise freedom of expression and
basic due process to its students, but this case brings the sincerity of
those promises into serious question. FIRE calls on President Hanson to
either admit that the suspension and order for a 'mental health
evaluation' had no justifiable basis or give Scheffler all the
information he needs to respond to the charges against him."
FIRE is a nonprofit educational foundation that unites civil rights and
civil liberties leaders, scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals
from across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of
individual rights, due process, freedom of expression, academic freedom,
and rights of conscience at our nation's colleges and universities.
FIRE's efforts to preserve liberty across America can be viewed at
Robert Shibley, Vice President, FIRE: 215-717-3473; email@example.com
Linda Hanson, President, Hamline University: 651-523-2202;
David Stern, Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs, Hamline
University: 651-523-2088; firstname.lastname@example.org (mailto:email@example.com)
Posted by Declan McCullagh on Oct 11, 2007
in category free-speech
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